Formidable fleet

A bigger Taxi returns to the podium

By Carey Toane

Taxi Group Photo

Taxi has always been known for breaking the rules. After all, its motto is “doubt the conventional to create the exceptional.” But what happens when unconventional suddenly becomes the convention? When big and small agencies alike are turning to non-traditional media, how do you maintain an edge?

If you’re Taxi co-founder and chairman/CCO Paul Lavoie, you embrace the change. “I don’t see that as competition, I see it as endorsing something that’s healthy for the industry,” he says. “Like I’ve said from day one, what’s healthy for the industry is healthy for Taxi and vice versa. It just makes us relevant. We will stand out not by our philosophy, but by the work that we do.”

Our judges noticed. The agency’s sparkling creative returned the shop to medal standing, a place they’d become accustomed to after their record-breaking four-year Gold-winning streak from 2002 to 2005. (Last year they earned an Honourable Mention.) Judges also took note of the agency’s penchant for successfully challenging convention – in its work for Reversa, for instance. “Beauty product advertising always plays in the same field of creativity,” said AOY judge Nicolas Massey, co-founder/CD at Montreal’s Amen. “For once, Reversa is taking us somewhere else. Great website and print work that gives the power to the ladies!” And Craig Redmond, CD at Grey Vancouver, gave tongue-in-cheek kudos to the agency’s work for retailer Canadian Tire: “Taxi [has] defied the odds by doing good Canadian Tire ads.”

On the home front, there have been some big shifts in the Taxi universe in recent months. CD Steve Mykolyn has become ECD, filling the shoes of Zak Mroueh, who will stay on till the end of the year. Another office opened in Vancouver (forming Taxi West with Calgary), where, in October, Lavoie's longtime dream of opening a café was realized when the right piece of real estate was finally found. Joining the ever-growing Taxi franchise is Taxi Film, launched a year ago and dedicated to creating short films and music videos directed by staffers. And Taxi Content recently opened for business to develop branded content in a variety of new media, and will work closely with existing TV and movie production unit Chokolat. All this is not unusual for an agency that continues to defy expectations. We say, score one for breaking the rules.


Convention-busting creative

Taxi’s mantra is “break the category.” Whether it’s taboos around humour in the pharma category (Viagra) or sexual fantasies of older women for the cosmetics industry (Reversa), Taxi takes aim at the convention every time, with the intention of smashing it to bits. Often this involves looking at the competition to see what not to do.

The agency also often looks outside traditional creative – to media and technology, for instance – to find the innovative idea. “When you’re looking for new media ideas, there are so many things that are available from a technology point of view that aren’t even on the radar of agencies,” says Lavoie. “That’s why we’ve got engineers now.”

An internal site dubbed Taxi Labs gives designers and coders a space to post their inventions and pet projects, such as user interfaces and widgets, where they can be admired by everyone in the company and cherry-picked for use in project work. Labs has been so successful that one tool (a particularly clever web interface) became the focus of two separate pitches to two different clients in two cities on the same day – and both clients bought it.

Head count: 331 (Toronto: 150, Taxi 2: 23, Montreal: 79, Vancouver: 18, Café: 2, Calgary: 9, New York City: 50)

Recent hires: Cheryl Grishkewich, promoted to GM in Toronto; Victoria Grey as GM, Taxi West, overseeing Calgary and Vancouver; Cory Pelletier in Toronto and Elayna Gorbatyuk in Montreal, creative media directors

New business: Holt Renfrew, Aviva

Biggest accomplishment: “It comes down to one word: global,” says Taxi Canada prez Rob Guenette. “We scored three global campaigns this past year, two of them out of Taxi 2. One is the ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals], which is in 63 countries. The other one out of Taxi 2 is Mini. We scored a global interactive campaign for their environmental platform, and we’re doing that out of Munich; it’s on their global site now. And the third one is YoungGuns [International Advertising Award], based in Sydney, Australia. Every year they approach an agency to do their global campaign, so we’ve done it, it’s up, you can take a look at it at And that’s running literally in every country in the world.”